22 May 2019


Band-Aid Fabric Tough Strips

Tough adhesive bandages

I cook all the meals in my household and have worked in a bunch of manual jobs, from welding to construction, so I have a lot of experience with cuts, abrasions, and burns. After much experience and unwilling experiment, I highly recommend Band-Aid Tough Strips without exception or qualification.

Every other variety I have tried, including the plastic “waterproof” Tough Strips and the regular plastic and fabric Band-Aids, have, in a word, stunk. Why the fabric Tough Strips stay on through sweat and multiple soapings, I don’t know. The adhesive does seem to be of a different sort. But the fact is they do stay on through everyday and not-so-everyday abuse, and no other bandage I’ve tried comes close. Also they’re a little bigger than regular bandages, and the extra bit often makes the difference between not-quite and fully covering a wound. Be sure to apply them to dry skin while trying to avoid getting any antibiotic ointment on the sticky part as that stuff is like adhesive kryptonite.

-- Tim Heffernan 05/22/19

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2011 — editors)

21 May 2019


Every Tool’s a Hammer

Mythbusters' star golden rules of creativity

I enjoyed Every Tool’s a Hammer ($13) for two reasons. First, it provides a fascinating insight into the mind of an accomplished maker. Adam shares, in often very personal ways, his journey through life so far — both the overall direction of a person compelled to make and obsess in an eclectic number of areas, and the happy circumstances, hard lessons, and unpredictable paths on the way. If you enjoyed the infectious enthusiasm you’ve seen on screen (e.g., MythBusters), you’ll very much enjoy this aspect of the book. But the main point of the book seems to be much more about encouraging the reader to act on their own interests and to create — to make — in whatever field they find a deep connection with. As he puts it, it’s permission to follow those interests down whatever rabbit holes they lead, that this is a positive thing we can do in our lives and not something to hide away.

As well, it’s about the tools and techniques that he’s found useful in his making–from simple lists to custom-built toolboxes. (Well, toolboxes that are to regular toolboxes what a motorcycle is to a tricycle.) A few of these are one-of-a-kind-Adam — and those are fun in exactly the way you can imagine — and in other cases, he’s describing his own take on some proven industrial practices (e.g., the 5S methodology of optimizing a workspace). There’s even a section on what kind of glue to use for various materials, and why not to use glue in the first place.

Adam was interviewed on Cool Tools in 2016, and at least one favorite Cool Tool I use frequently was one he contributed — Knipex cutters. (They rule.) You do not need to be someone who thinks of themselves as a “maker” to enjoy this book. But it seems like Adam’s goal would be to give you a push towards following that geeky interest in the back of your mind, to find that family of like-minded people, and to help up the people who follow behind you. An excellent message, especially to young people.

-- Dale Grover 05/21/19

20 May 2019


Adhesive Key Hider Pouch

Water resistant adhesive anchors mounting pad to any clean surface

Locking yourself out of your vehicle is nigh inevitable. Whether your keys are lost, misplaced or dangling tauntingly from the ignition of your locked rig, you’ve got yourself in a pickle. A recent review of a trailer-hitch key vault proposed a nifty, albeit pricey method to ensure you’re not stranded.

But for those too frugal to spend $65 on a solution, there’s a cheap and effective solution that has saved my bacon on a number of occasions, including out in the middle of nowhere after losing my keys in a trout stream.

This key hider ($5) is a pouch with a water-resistant adhesive which can be affixed to your vehicle discreetly. Unlike the magnetic key hiders, it won’t jiggle off on rough roads. I still have the original key pouch I purchased a dozen years ago, tucked safely away but readily accessible. I use it often by design, not wanting to carry my keys with me if I’m engaged in sporting events or hikes or such.

They can be purchased for a tiny fraction of the aforementioned trailer hitch (and don’t have to be removed if you intend to be pulling a trailer, either.)

-- John Bulger 05/20/19

19 May 2019


TV for cats/Andy Goldsworthy/Autogenic relaxation

Recomendo: issue no. 147

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TV for cats
My daughter likes having our cats hang out in her room with her when she does her homework, but when they start to bother her by rubbing against her or standing on her papers, she told me she shows them YouTube videos made for cats. I didn’t believe they worked, but I tried one (it shows mice and birds eating seeds) and my cat was engrossed for the entire 14-minute video. – MF

The importance of play
Andy Goldsworthy is an artist I pay attention to. Goldsworthy is famous for his playful, intricate rearrangements of leaves, twigs, ice, and stones in natural settings. An incredibly enchanting documentary about his work, Rivers and Tides, shows him as he works outside overcoming pieces that keep failing, so for a brief moment I see the world as the artist does, as invisible flows revealed by play. Recently the same documentarian made a second film recording a more mature Goldsworthy working on more ambitious projects. This doc, titled Leaning into the Wind, accomplishes the same trick of helping me see the world differently, and via Goldworthy’s example, to take play seriously. – KK

Fall asleep faster
When I have trouble sleeping listening to the Autogenic Relaxation by Meditation Oasis usually knocks me out. The audio guides me through relaxing all my limbs starting with my feet. I rarely make it past my neck. Here is a link to download the meditation. — CD

Duplicate travel items
I have found it useful to purchase a duplicate set of cords, cables, chargers, desktop items, earphones, etc that I carry in a dedicated bag just for travel. Increasingly I’ve added duplicate articles of clothing, shoes, hats to my carry-on luggage. They never leave. That way I don’t have to pack, but more importantly, I don’t ever forget anything. The cost of duplication is minimal for the benefits. – KK

OXO Good Grips silicone pot holder
This pot holder ($10) is a padded fabric envelope with a knobby silicone sheet on one side, Nothing can slip from its grip. I even use it to open stubborn jar lids. – MF

Make your portrait a poem
I love poetry, so this Google AI experiment “PoemPortraits“ was something I enjoyed playing with. I donated the word “supernatural” which then produced a unique two-line poem, pulling from more than 20 million words of 19th century poetry. Then I took a selfie with my laptop camera and the poem became my face. I am now a part of the ever-expanding and evolving machine-created poem. — CD


17 May 2019


Sean Michael Ragan, Author and Former Editor of Make

Cool Tools Show 175: Sean Michael Ragan

Our guest this week is Sean Michael Ragan. Sean is the author of three books including The Total Inventor’s Manual, which is on sale now at Costco, Sam’s, and all major book retailers. He’s also a former editor of and longtime contributor to MAKE Magazine and MAKE online. You can find him on Amazon, Medium and Instagram.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3 | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show notes:

3M Stikit Gold Paper Sheet Roll
When I use sand paper I find it’s not very useful as just loose paper. There are a lot of clever sanding blocks out there and sanding solutions but 3M, as far as I know, is the originator of this idea where you just sell sand paper on a roll and you put a peel and stick backing on it, which if you’ve ever fiddled about trying to attach sandpaper to a wooden block for sanding or to a piece of glass or a surface plate for lapping, is obviously a smart idea.

Kant Twist Clamps
These work kind of like C-clamps, except better in almost every way. I say “almost” because these are a lot more expensive than C-clamps. But the advantages I think are worth it: The cantilever mechanism means the screw you turn to tighten the thing is actually perpendicular to the applied clamping force, instead of directly in line with it. The jaws sort of lever sideways to give you more mechanical advantage than you’d get from turning the same size C-clamp handle. So you can clamp harder without working as hard to do it. The gripping pads, or jaws or whatever, are plated in copper to keep them from marring up your work, and because the screw doesn’t directly impinge on them they can rotate to align with the faces of your part. Also you can spin them around to one of several different gripping faces before you tighten the clamp down — one’s smooth, one has grooves, stuff like that.

Noga NF61003 Dial Indicator Holder w/Magnetic Base
If you want to do any kind of precision work with a drill press, lathe, mill or other machine tool, you need to have a dial indicator and a way to position it where you need it. Thing is, a dial indicator is really not that complicated from an engineering perspective, and for most applications all you’re doing is trying to minimize movement of the needle along a toolpath or around a cutting axis. So a cheap import one works fine. It’s better to have a good one, but if you’ve only got so much money to spend, it makes more sense to buy other stuff first. So here’s a case where it actually makes sense to spend more money on the mount for the instrument than on the instrument itself. These arms come on a switchable magnetic base so you can stick them to ferrous metal surfaces and the Nogas in particular are just awesome when it comes to being able to quickly position them where you want them and lock them down. With a Noga, you can basically loosen one knob, pull the end of the thing where you want it to be, and tighten the knob back down, and the whole arm locks up rigid. So it’s quick and reliable and a real pleasure to use.

Fireball Forged Bench Vise ($120)
I picked this vise for lots of reasons: First of all, it’s the only commercial vise I know of that can be ordered with solid copper jaws. Usually if you want a set of copper jaws, you have to make your own. And copper jaws are so much better for most things, and in so many ways, than the hardened steel jaws that most vises ship with. A) Copper’s soft and so it doesn’t leave marks or scratches on stuff, even if you gronk down really hard on it; B) copper is malleable, so it actually conforms a bit when you grab down on a part and grips it better than hard steel, so its less likely to slip; C) copper is a great conductor of heat, so if you’re using a torch or a soldering iron on a part you’ve got clamped in the vise, copper jaws will help keep it cool. D); finally, copper is a great conductor of electricity, so if you’re doing some kind of arc welding process on something you’ve got clamped in the vise you can count on the copper jaws to make good electrical contact with it for your ground electrode. Apart from the jaws, this is just a badass vise in general: It’s forged instead of cast, so it’s stronger, it’s got a separate set of round pipe jaws underneath the flat jaws. It’s got a little anvil on it. And it’s got a bolt hole pattern in the base that fits the fixture holes that are standard on BuildPro welding table fixtures, which means you can mount it on your table quickly and take it off just as quickly and count on it to solid in between. Plus I think it’s really pretty, too. I like the kind of crystal blue hammertone paint a lot. Finally, Fireball tools is a cool little US company owned and operated by a maker in Washington state. His name’s Jason Marburger and he’s got a really interesting YouTube channel.

Also mentioned:

I just finished up my third book, which isn’t out yet, but hopefully will be soon. It’s called “Breadboard ‘Bots” and it’s a series of robotics projects that can be put together without soldering or programming anything by building modular circuits on those little mini breadboards and then interconnecting them mechanically and electrically in various ways. If you all remember the whole BEAM robotics thing, the designs are a lot like that, except without all the fancy freeform soldering. I always liked BEAM because I like the game of trying to get these little robots to have the most complicated possible behaviors using just, you know, sense-and-respond kind of analog electronics and clever mechanical design instead of programming a microcontroller or microprocessor. So that’s not out yet, but it’s done, and I’m kind of casting about for my next project at the moment. I used to have an Etsy store that was pretty successful and I miss doing that, so I may try to fire it up again.


17 May 2019


Bifocal Safety Glasses

Safety bifocals

I happened upon these while on vacation in a hardware store (yes, I go to hardware stores while on vacation). These safety glasses ($12) provide great eye protection and the bifocal lens allows me to perform close-up tasks without resorting to pulling them off for my reading glasses. Essentially a perfect solution for those who work in a shop with ‘older’ active eyes.

-- Mark Ramirez 05/17/19


img 05/16/19

Tuffcoat Work Gloves

Tough kevlar work gloves

img 05/15/19

Lacto-Freedom Pills

For people with lactose intolerance

img 05/14/19

Wild Fermentation

Fermented food cookbook

img 05/10/19

Joshuah Bearman, Epic Cofounder

Cool Tools Show 174: Joshuah Bearman

See all the reviews


img 08/1/14

Mann Lake Beekeeping Starter Kit

Cheapest way to start bees

img 08/28/17

Pumps-A-Lot Water Pump

Simple emergency sump pump

img 06/30/03

Griphoist (Tirfor) Hand Winch

Better than a come-along or winch

img 09/9/08

Raven Maps

Best US state wall maps

img 11/20/12

Stanley Compartment Organizer

Affordable parts organizer

See all the favorites



Cool Tools Show 175: Sean Michael Ragan

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 174: Joshuah Bearman

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 173: Guy Kawasaki

Picks and shownotes

23 February 2017


Cool Tools is a web site which recommends the best/cheapest tools available. Tools are defined broadly as anything that can be useful. This includes hand tools, machines, books, software, gadgets, websites, maps, and even ideas. All reviews are positive raves written by real users. We don’t bother with negative reviews because our intent is to only offer the best.

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